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Italian virus hospital offers Fauci work if Trump fires him

ROME – The scientific director of Italy’s leading infectious disease hospital offered Wednesday to hire Dr. Anthony Fauci if President Donald Trump removes him from the White House coronavirus task force, saying quite simply “the world needs Fauci.”

Dr. Giuseppe Ippolito of Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani hospital said in an interview with The Associated Press that no one knows infectious disease better than Fauci.

“There is no one else who has written the history of medicine and infectious diseases like Tony Fauci,” he told the AP. “There is no one else who has been able to write about, and to decrypt, the secrets of infectious diseases.”

Ippolito wrote a letter to the Italian president and other officials, saying Italy should welcome Fauci with open arms. The country is the European epicenter of the pandemic, and Spallanzani treated its first patients.

The letter released Wednesday praised Fauci’s expertise, experience, leadership and “generous and selfless help” to Spallanzani and other hospitals around the world -- “a generosity that we like to associate (with) his Italian heritage, always remembered with pride.”

Ippolito said removing Fauci from the U.S. task force “would be disastrous news not only for the United States, but for the whole international community.”

Speculation about Fauci’s fate swirled over the weekend after he told CNN that the U.S. would have “obviously” saved lives if virus mitigation efforts had begun earlier. Trump responded by reposting a tweet that included the line: “Time to #FireFauci.”

On Monday, Trump insisted Fauci’s job was safe, but Republicans close to the White House say the president has complained about Fauci's positive media attention and has sought to leave him out of task force briefings.

“Politicians don’t like uncomfortable scientists, they always want servile scientists,” Ippolito told the AP. “The value of science instead is to say uncomfortable things too, in all contexts and always, because the principle is to defend science, not to please politicians.”

“The world needs Fauci. America needs Fauci,” he added.

In the letter, Ippolito said Italy would gladly welcome Fauci's expertise. He cited his work on the SARS, HIV, Ebola and Zika outbreaks, and praised his training of a generation of doctors and nurses. Fauci's work, Ippolito wrote, “has saved the lives of millions of women, men and children in the United States and all over the world."

His letter was addressed to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, with copies sent to the Italian premier, health minister, foreign minister, as well as local regional authorities. He wrote that Spallanzani itself “would be honored" to bring Fauci on as an adviser, whereas the Italian government as a whole could benefit form his “great vision and expertise."

The Spallanzani hospital issued the letter in both Italian and English and sent it to news media along with a “New Yorker" profile of Fauci.

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AP video journalist Luigi Navarro contributed to this story.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak